TB & Me: "I used to look at the tablets and wonder if I was going to be able to swallow them"

17 March 2017

When I was 23-years old I had to move to Matibi Mission hospital in Mwenezi. They told me I would have to live in isolation so I would not infect other people with my disease.  When they told me, I cried.  I could not imagine staying in isolation.

I had been diagnosed of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

MDR-TB is a type of TB that does not respond to at least the two most powerful anti-TB drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin.

I started my MDR-TB treatment on 3 February, 2016. I took injections everyday for six months and now I am taking pills in what is called the continuation phase of treatment.

I used to look at the tablets and wonder if I was going to be able to swallow them.

There was a mortuary next to the isolation room where I was staying. I was scared that dead people would visit me or run away from the graves and come to the isolation room.  I felt that even if something strange was to happen, no one would hear me because I was far away. This made me so upset.

One day I became very angry and annoyed to an extent that I took out a sim card from my phone and swallowed it. I ran to the clinic and told the nurses that there are people who wanted to kill me. I then ran into the night. We later realised I was suffering from psychosis related mental illness which had been sparked by the MDR-TB medication. I am now recovered from this condition.

My biggest challenge is not having adequate food

One of the patient mentors explained that mental illness is one of the severe side effects of taking MDR-TB treatment. Not all patients get severe side-effects like I did.

When I went back home after I was discharged from the isolation room at Matibiri clinic, I would walk for about 10 kilometres to go to the nearest clinic to collect my medication. But Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) gave me a bicycle that I can use to cycle to the clinic.

I hope to finish my treatment in November 2017. The MSF team is supporting me so that I can continue to take my treatment.

My biggest challenge is not having adequate food. One shouldn’t take the MDR-TB tablets on an empty stomach. I am hoping to start receiving an allowance from the government that is given to patients suffering from MDR-TB so that they are able to sustain themselves.

I would like to encourage everyone who is on treatment to adhere to treatment to avoid further complications

I would like to encourage everyone who is on treatment to adhere to treatment to avoid further complications. Some of the people who look after us are not even our relatives so we must not dishearten them.

Before I was diagnosed of MDR-TB, I used to work as a house maid. I feel I cannot get a job now because of my condition. But my wish in the future is to get another job so that I can be able to support myself.

 

MSF is supporting the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) to provide treatment and care to multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) patients in Epworth, Gutu, Mutare and Mwenezi, and is at an advanced stage to pilot the implementation of the shorter term nine months regimen of MDR-TB drugs to lessen the effects of taking medication for a longer period of time.

The current treatment for MDR-TB involves taking several drugs for 18 to 24 months. During the first eight months some of these drugs need to be injected. The drugs can cause many side effects which include dizziness, mental illness, depression, deafness, headaches, nausea and vomiting, among others.